It's the most wonderful time of the year and dozens of local nonprofits and their volunteers are hoping that Tucsonans will ensure that companion animals share in the good cheer.
"People get very busy and get caught up in the festivities this time of year and it is important to remember those who can't help themselves, which are the animals," said Cindy McGuire, executive director of The Hermitage Cat Shelter, a no-kill, no-cage cat shelter and sanctuary.
"Anyone who has a pet knows they become part of the family and part of our day-to-day existence. They improve the quality of life for so many people."
The nonprofit houses nearly 200 cats and kittens in 8,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor living space. It is the only local shelter that accepts cats with feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), diabetes and other chronic health issues. It also promotes and assists with trapping, neutering and returning feral cats in an attempt to control their population.
McGuire said the economy has placed significant strain on local animal shelters since contributions have decreased while the need for services has increased.
"We have cats brought to us from people in desperate situations, who have lost their homes or their jobs. But when we have the space we seek out cats from other shelters and facilities that may be euthanized due to overpopulation. We recently rescued between 35 and 40 kittens from Pima Animal Control Center," McGuire said.
She credits 40 volunteers with facilitating the daily function of the shelter, which operates solely on the generosity of donors.
Jill Goodwin is among those; she contributes three or four days a week at the shelter, working one-on-one with anti-social cats in an effort to make them available for adoption.
"I take cats who are terrified - some come from hoarding situations - and spend time with them to make them trust again," she said. "It is a wonderful feeling knowing that what you did helped a cat to get a forever home."
How you can help
• The Hermitage Cat Shelter, 5278 E. 21st St., is open to prospective adopters from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day except Wednesday. Hermitage cats can be adopted daily at the following Petco locations: 7180 E. Wrightstown Road; 4625 N. Oracle Road; and 5405 E. Broadway. For more information on adoption, or to support the shelter through the purchase of a 2012 calendar, holiday cards with artwork by Arizona Daily Star cartoonist David Fitzsimmons or other gift items (for people and pets) or a cat sponsorship for $20 per month, go online to www.hermitagecatshelter.org or call 571-7839.
• Happy Equine Acres Rescue & Therapy (HEART) of Tucson has rescued more than 100 abandoned, abused or neglected horses since its nonprofit inception in 2009. Other services include Pay It Forward With HEART, a food bank that provides horse owners in need with hay in an effort to keep the animals in their homes.
The east-side organization also sponsors a Euthanasia Fund for animals in distress whose owners can't afford to provide a humane death. HEART needs contributions to provide hay and pay veterinary expenses for nearly 40 rescued horses. Volunteers also are needed to assist with daily care for the animals.
For more information or to make a contribution online, go to heartoftucson.org or call 445-1510.
• The Tucson Wildlife Center has rescued, treated, rehabilitated and released more than 800 animals such as eagles, hawks, owls, bobcats, coyotes and javelinas. It also works with other rehabilitation centers to place smaller animals. More than 70 volunteers work together to facilitate the effort and donations are needed to support operating costs for the nonprofit organization.
The public can also "adopt" an animal for the holidays for $75 to $100 annually or schedule monthly donations to foster orphans prior to their release into the wild. Donations are tax-deductible and can be made online at www.tucsonwildlife.com or sent to Tucson Wildlife Center, P.O. Box 18320, Tucson, AZ 85731.
The organization is hosting Rescue, Rehab, Release … Rejoice! at 4:30 p.m. Jan. 28 at the Mountain Oyster Club, 6400 E. El Dorado Circle. The benefit will include an opportunity to meet educators and rescued animals. There will be dinner and live and silent auctions. Tickets are $125 per person. For more information or to buy a ticket go to www.tucsonwildlife.com or call 290-9453.
Contact freelance writer Loni Nannini at email@example.com